Chairmans Report – The Briefing Meeting on Lymington Yarmouth Ferries 22nd April 2008

Posted on 23 Apr 2008

The meeting was chaired by Peter Nicholson, President of the Society, who in his introductory remarks noted that the objective of the meeting was to establish facts and reduce speculation. Representatives of stakeholder organisations in Lymington and West Wight had been invited and the key speakers were:-

  • Mr Peter Griffiths – Chairman, Lymington Harbour Commissioners
  • Dr Ian Dand – BMT SeaTech
  • Mr Andrew Willson – Chief Executive, Wightlink
  • Mr John Burrows – Director of Operations, Wightlink
  • Mr Geoff Bowles – Head of Marine Development Control, Marine Fisheries Agency
  • Mr Geoff Holmes – Commodore, Royal Lymington Yacht Club
  • Mr Robin Dent – Lymington Town Sailing Club

Mr O’Flynn made a statement on behalf of the Lymington River Association. Following the presentations there was an opportunity for questions.

The first speaker was Peter Griffiths who set out some of the background to the current position and also the Commissioners legal duties and powers with respect to the harbour. He confirmed that the Commissioners had made the information from the BMT SeaTech report available for the Appropriate Assessment being prepared by ABPMer for Wightlink. This presentation set the scene for the presentation by Ian Dand on his report “Ferry Operations at Lymington, Phase I”. The presentation set out the scope, methodology and conclusions of the Phase 1 report.

This was followed by a presentation by Wightlink. They reported on the key recent developments which were:-

  • There had been additional modelling and tank testing of waterflows from the Voight Schneider units
  • Two vessels had been launched and would be delivered to Wightlink, in Croatia, towards the end of June/early July
  • Shore works had commenced in Yarmouth and would be completed before the Old Gaffers Festival
  • The Appropriate Assessment would shortly be delivered to defra

They accepted the findings of the Risk Assessment and stated that they would work closely with the Harbour Commissioners and their consultants to resolve outstanding issues.

The following key issues that had to be addressed in Phase II were identified by the Royal Lymington Yacht Club:-

  • wind disturbance, particularly the effect of wind shadow
  • safe passing in the river
  • hydrodynamics : turbulence/wash/drawdown
  • sidethrust
  • environmental impact and mitigation measures

The Lymington Town Sailing Club was also particularly concerned that the interests of small boat users eg dinghy sailors and canoeists were taken into account and that the perceived risk presented by the ferries would have a deterrent effect on river users.

Antony Matusch then made a short presentation on West Wight concerns.

The final briefing was by Geoff Bowles who explained the complex area of the consents system relating to environmental matters, described the process and how it applied to the introduction of the Wight class ferries.  He focused on the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) and the Coastal Protection Act (CPA).  FEPA applies from MHWS and controls the deposit of substances in the sea which is equivalent to planning permission on land.  Harbour authorities also have powers and the CPA applies to both deposit and removal of substances where there are no other powers.

He also explained the legal basis for requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment and the impact of the Habitats Directive. If there is a potential significant impact on a special protection area an Appropriate Assessment (AA) has to be carried out.  Unless it can be proved that there is no adverse impact on the integrity of the site then mitigation has to be carried out.  It had been decided that an AA was necessary in this case and should cover the relevant effects of the introduction of the new vessels.  MFA concluded that the proposed works do not trigger the need for a formal EIA.  MFA accept that there may be localised effects from changing the vessels and these should be assessed by the AA.  MFA also has to have regard to other users of the sea in reaching their decision on granting consent.  He emphasised the importance of the sea trials in reaching a final decision.

Points raised/confirmed during questions:-

  • There was a need for modern, safe ferries to operate on the route
  • there will be consultation with river users on the scope of the Phase II trials
  • Marshalling traffic in Yarmouth
  • The ferry engines will be switched off when ferries are on the berth
  • Steve Porter, IOW Chamber of Commerce stated that the Lymington/Yarmouth route was not favoured by hauliers and he did not envisage an increase in lorry traffic with the introduction of the new ferries
  • Test for Appropriate Assessment is more rigorous than an Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Conservation legislation cannot be applied retrospectively for current operations.  Concern for regulators is to ensure that situation is not exacerbated by changes.
  • Potential to mitigate scouring of the riverbed by ensuring that ferries operate in centre of river
  • Importance of management of ferry operations in the future
  • Concern about increase in traffic
  • The ferries should arrive in the UK in mid/late July. The current ferries will operate for the summer season
  • The importance of the Harbour Commissioners monitoring the operations of the new ferries was reiterated.

Sheelagh Evans, Chairman of the SPS Council